Christ the Center by David Platt (first sermon as Pastor at Brook Hills Church)

For the David Platt Sermon page, click here. Below, David Platt preaches about 1 week after becoming Pastor of the Church at Brook Hills. Some highlights from the sermon:

  • Who we say Jesus is, will determine everything about how we follow Him!
  • It doesn’t matter how much faith we have, but what we have our faith in.
  • If I stop showing you Christ, you can stop listening to me. I need to find another job.
  • The church is built on the foundation of Christ, who is the architect, not on me (the Pastor) or other people. Jesus will build His church.
  • What happens when not music or great preaching is the focus and the call we give to unbelievers to come to our church, but Jesus is the reason ?
Reclame

PAUL (Part 1) on the ROAD to DAMASCUS

(via) Paul’s call to the ministry of the Way is intertwined with Peters efforts to reach out to the Gentiles in the formative years of the Church. Below is an excerpt (from pp 462-465) of the narrative mostly from Acts of Paul’s ministry before he made his first missionary journey (which will follow in a future post).

Now as he was approaching Damascus…suddenly a light from  heaven flashed around him.  Acts 9:3.

(from The Tyndale Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Copyright 2001 (c) by Neil S. Wilson & Linda K. Taylor.) (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois)

The road from Jerusalem to Damascus owes its fame to an event occurring along it about the year A.D. 34. Acts gives us the most famous account of Paul’s “Damascus Road experience.”    The great persecutor, “still breathing threats and  murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), is on his way to the city, claiming the high priest’s authority to arrest any disciples of Jesus he should find there. But this journey will take an unexpected turn.
Roads and journeys are important throughout Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospel’s central section (Luke 9:51-19:27) describes Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem, during which He prepares His disciples for what is to come. But life-changing experiences also happen on roads out of Jerusalem. It is on  the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus that Cleopas and his companion encounter the risen Lord (Luke 24:13-35). On the road connecting Jerusalem with Gaza, Philip encounters the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). Now it is on another road from Jerusalem that the persecutor Saul of Tarsus will be transformed into Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. Given the significance of journeying, it is not surprising that the earliest followers of Jesus were known as people who belonged to the Way (Acts 9:2).

Conversion  or  Call?

Paul most likely followed the major thoroughfare through the Jordan valley, before turning to the northeast from Galilee toward Damascus, the snow capped Mt. Hermon to the north. As he drew near to Damascus, the dramatic event occurred.  Although Christians have come to speak of Paul’s conversion, the story told by Acts, and the allusion to it in Paul’s letters, suggest another possibility.
In that it was so life changing, shaking the very foundations of his Pharisaic worldview, it is appropriately called a conversion. Yet this did not mean a transfer from one religion to another. Rather, Paul prefers the language of a prophetic call: he is being commissioned for a particular task. He believes, like Jeremiah and Isaiah before him, that he has been prepared for this new role since before his birth (Galatiians 1:15); see also Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5). His call near Damascus is understood to include a direct charge to preach God’s Son among the Gentiles (Galatians 1:16).

Paul in Damascus

Damascus is located in an oasis in southern Syria, approximately 135 miles (217 km) northeast of Jerusalem. The city was completely rebuild in the Hellenistic period, on a grid system. The one exception to the right-angled layout was the colonnaded “Street called Straight,” which crossed the city from east to west. Its name probably reflects a local joke, for it was not straight but slightly crooked. Here Paul will reside with a fellow Jew named Judas.
When Paul finally arrives in Damascus, a Christian Jew, Ananias, seeks him out. Paul later describes him as “a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living” in Damascus (Acts 22:12). Acts does not state how the Christian  message reached Damascus, though that might be due to missionaries scattered following Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 8:1). Ananias restores Paul’s sight, and brings him by baptism into the messianic community.  He boldly addresses as “brother Saul” one who, only days before, was intent on persecuting people such as him. He is another of the unsung heroes of the early Church, who disappears from Luke’s story as quickly as he entered it.

DAMASCUS. By the Rev. Dr. PHILIP SCHAFF and Miss M. E. ROGERS Gardens and Rivers of Damascus.

Escape from Damascus

Apart from describing his synagogue preaching in Damascus, Acts is silent about what happened next. We do know from Galatians, however, that after his call he spent some time in Arabia before returning to Damascus (Galatians 1:17).  “Arabia” refers to the area to the south, the kingdom of Nabataea. Its capital was the famous rock city of Petra. ( See a short video of this ancient city that still exists today here.) Paul declines to spell out his reason for heading to Arabia/Nabataea and he seems to have made enemies there. Some time after returning to Damascus, he is forced to flee for his life. Under cover of night he is forced down from the city’s wall in a basket (Acts 9:25), and makes his way back to Jerusalem. Although Acts views the Jews of Damascus as the rime movers against him, Paul sees the real threat as “the governor under King Aretas” (2 Corinthians 11:32). The king in question is Aretas IV, king of the Nabataeas from 9 B.C. to 40 A.D. Damascus remained firmly under Roman control  until Tiberius’s death in March 37 A.D. Paul’s reference suggests the city then came under Nabataean control, thus giving an approximate date for his escape.
So Saul returns to Jerusalem a changed man. It is not surprising that the Church there suspected a plot to infiltrate their ranks. Later, Paul relates that he  met Peter (Cephas) and James the Lord’s brother ( Galatians 1:18-20) and the Cypriot Joseph Barnabas emerges out of the shadows to show his worth as a true “son of encouragement” (see Acts 43:6). The stories of Barnabas and Saul will be inextricably linked in the chapters to follow.

Opening to the Gentiles

Bab Kisan Gate where Paul escapes persecution.

Having prepared the ground for Paul’s future work, Luke now returns to the leader of the Jerusalem apostles, Simon Peter. Although Paul is remembered as the great apostle to the Gentiles, Acts shows how his work is already anticipated in Peter’s ministry. Somewhat reluctantly, but in accordance with the divine will, Peter opens a door for the Gentiles; Paul and Barnabas will use this opportunity to great effect, and on a far wider canvas.

Healing on the fringes

Peter continues Christ’s healing ministry here in two further healings (Acts 9:32-43). Yet as important as continuing Jesus’ healing of those “on the margins” is the fact that Peter is also moving to the geographic margins.

Joppa, prophet Jonah boarded ship here to run away

The locations of the two miraculous events,  Lydda and Joppa, are away from Jerusalem on a coastal plain.  Beyond them is the great sea, the Mediterranean. Soon Paul and Barnabas will sail across that sea to bring the good news to Cyprus and Asia Minor.
Lydda, the ancient Lod, was a large town or city located on the road linking Jerusalem  with Joppa about 10 miles (16 km) inland from Joppa. The port town of Joppa (from a Canaanite word meaning “the beautiful”) although inhabited by Jews, was a Greek city, stressing again Peter’s move to the boundaries. Here he resides with Simon the tanner, an occupation despised by many pious Jews.
The story of the healing of Aeneas in Lydda echoes Jesus’ healing of a paralytic at Luke 5:18-26. Although Aeneas is not a Jewish  name, he fact that Peter’s dealings with him are uncontroversial (unlike those with Cornelius) suggests he is a Jew, probably a Christian Jew. Part of Peter’s motive in traveling seems to have been to encourage the disciples living on the edge of Judea. Aeneas’s healing leads to conversions among the (Jewish) population of  Lydda and “the Sharon,” the coastal plain located between the sea and the central hill country.  Peter’s second healing, at Joppa, certainly involves a disciple. When Tabitha, or Dorcas in Greek (“gazelle”), is raised from the dead one is reminded of Jesus’ raising of Jairus’s daughter (Luke 8:49-56). Acts 8:40 hints that both Lydda and Joppa were evangelized by Philip on his way from Azots to Caesarea.

God fearers converted

Now that Peter is on the Holy Land’s geographic fringes, the stage is set for the next major transition in the spread of the gospel. Cornelius, a Roman centurion of the Italian cohort stationed at Caesarea, will receive the Holy Spirit and be baptized. Archaeological evidence attests a “Second Italian Cohort” in the area later in the century, though none has been found for Cornelius’s time. The Caesarea in question is the Caesarea Maritima (distinguishing it from other cities named after the emperor such as Caesarea Philippi). Formerly Strato’s tower, it had magnificently been rebuilt by Herod the Great. Ruins have survived of a fine artificial harbor, a Roman theater and an aqueduct.
Luke frequently speaks of Roman officials who are favorable toward the Christian  message. Cornelius is described as “a devout man who feared God with all his household” (Acts 10:2). In this he resembles the centurion who built the synagogue in Capernaum (Luke 7:1-10). The first step toward the Gentiles will be to one who is already on the fringes of the synagogue. Although Peter is instrumental here, what validates this dramatic step is divine revelation. Cornelius’ visitation from an angel is followed by a trance-induced vision, in which Peter sees a sheet containing all varieties of creatures. Through this vision, Peter comes to see that God is now over/riding the traditional clean/unclean distinction. As he is to learn, this applies not simply to animals and food, but to the distinction between Jews and Gentiles.
Hence, on returning to Jerusalem later (See Acts 11:1-18), he is prepared to justify the action taken at Caesarea. In Cornelius’s house, Peter’s preaching prompts divine activity, as the Holy Spirit descends even upon the “unclean” Gentiles. The Spirit was the expected gift of the new age, and its possession was a sign of being God’s people. Faced with heaven’s approval of pious Cornelius and his family, Peter cannot refuse them baptism.  Indeed, Luke has him seal this by accepting their hospitality for several days. Nevertheless, the full implications of this are not worked out immediately, either for Peter or for the Church. Later, at Antioch, Paul will challenge Peter over his decision to no longer eat with Gentiles, again treating them as unclean (Galatians 2:11-14).

Another Herod persecutes the Church

Back in Jerusalem, hostility directed toward the Church continues. Now it is associated with King Herod (Acts 12:1-5), who executes James, son of Zebedee, and also takes action against Peter. Herod Agrippa I was the grandson of Herod the Great, born in 10 B.C. and educated in Rome, where he became friends with the future emperors Gaius and Claudius. He inherited his uncle Philip’s tetrarchy in A.D. 38, adding Antipas’s Galilee and Perea two years later. He ruled as King of Judea between 41 and 44 A.D.
Acts portrayal of Agrippa is negative, influenced by the memory of his action against the Way. Though a promoter of Hellenism like his grandfather, at home Agrippa was a pious Jew. Acts has a most dramatic account of his untimely death, in which the crowds acclaim him as a god, and he develops a fatal illness. The tragic demise of a figure of royal power (Acts 12:20-23) contrasts powerfully with the escape from prison of the fisherman he sought to destroy and the inexorable progress of the message he wished to quash.

photo from biblewalks.com – In this aerial photo you can see the western layout of the city, with Herod’s theater on the bottom side, Herod’s palace on the left side, the Hippodrome and the Roman city in the center, and the Crusaders and port on the top side.

Caesarea Maritima („by the Sea”) is located on the shore in the center of Israel,  in the middle between Haifa and Tel-Aviv. It is the site of one of the most important cities in the Roman World, the Roman capital of the province of Judea at the time of Jesus, and a Crusader fortress along the road from Acre to Jerusalem.  The followin – towards the end of Paul’s life also takes place in Caesarea Maritima:

Acts (25: 11-14, 23) – Paul appeals to Caesar

In 58AD the Apostle Paul, accused of causing a riot, was sent to Caesarea to stand trial before the governor. As a Roman citizen he requested to be heard by the Emperor , and so he sailed to Rome from Caesarea harbor. There, he was tried and executed after several years.

25:11 For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.

25:12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.

25:13 And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.

25:14 And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix:

25:15 About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.

25:23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.

26:32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.

The „place of hearing”, where this all happened,  is located near Herod’ palace.

to be continued…

next in this series is Paul’s first missionary journey.

PETER and PAUL 1

PETER and PAUL 2

Pavel

Durata 3 ore

A.W. Pink – Divine Chastisement…how great is a folly pronouncing a judgement concerning others

A W Pink speaks on the treatment of our Christian brothers and sisters when they are afflicted.  He discusses different kinds of chastisements and then ends stating: „Now in view of these widely different aspects, chastenings which are retributive, corrective, educative, and preventative, how incompetent are we to diagnose, and how great is the folly of pronouncing a judgment concerning others! Let us not conclude when we see a fellow-Christian under the rod of God that he is necessarily being taken to task for his sins.”

you can read the entire book at CCEL.org (Excerpt below is Chapter 7 from A W Pink’s „Comfort for Christians”)

Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord nor faint when thou are rebuked of him„(HEBREWS 12:5)

It is of first importance that we learn to draw a sharp distinction between Divine punishment and Divine chastisement – important for maintaining the honour and glory of God, and for the peace of mind of the Christian. The distinction is very simple, yet is it often lost sight of. God’s people can never by any possibility be punished for their sins, for God has already punished them at the Cross. The Lord Jesus, our Blessed Substitute, suffered the full penalty of all our guilt, hence it is written „The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Neither the justice nor the love of God will permit Him to again exact payment of what Christ discharged to the full. The difference between punishment and chastisement lies not in the nature of the sufferings of the afflicted: it is most important to bear this in mind. There is a threefold distinction between the two.

First, the character in which God acts. In the former God acts as Judge, in the latter as Father. Sentence of punishment is the act of a judge, a penal sentence passed on those charged with guilt. Punishment can never fall upon the child of God in this judicial sense because his guilt was all transferred to Christ: „Who his own self bear our sins in his own body on the tree.” But while the believer’s sins cannot be punished, while the Christian cannot be condemned (Rom. 8:3), yet he may be chastised. The Christian occupies an entirely different position from the non-Christian: he is a member of the Family of God. The relationship which now exists between him and God is that of parent and child; and as a son he must be disciplined for wrongdoing. Folly is bound up in the hearts of all God’s children, and the rod is necessary to rebuke, to subdue, to humble.

The second distinction between Divine punishment and Divine chastisement lies in the recipients of each. The objects of the former are His enemies. The subjects of the latter are His children. As the Judge of all the earth, God will yet take vengeance on all His foes. As the Father of His family, God maintains discipline over all His children. The one is judicial, the other parental.

A third distinction is seen in The design of each: the one is retributive, the other remedial. The one flows from His anger, the other from His love. Divine punishment is never sent for the good of sinners, but for the honouring of God’s law and the vindicating of His government. But Divine chastisement is sent for the well-being of His children: „We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Heb. 12:9-10).

The above distinction should at once rebuke the thoughts which are so generally entertained among Christians. When the believer is smarting under the rod let him not say, God is now punishing me for my sins. That can never be. That is most dishonouring to the blood of Christ. God is correcting thee in love, not smiting in wrath. Nor should the Christian regard the chastening of the Lord as a sort of necessary evil to which he must bow as submissively as possible. No, it proceeds from God’s goodness and faithfulness, and is one of the greatest blessings for which we have to thank Him. Chastisement evidences our Divine son-ship: the father of a family does not concern himself with those on the outside: but those within he guides and disciplines to make them conform to his will. Chastisement is designed for our good, to promote our highest interests. Look beyond the rod to the All-wise hand that wields it!

The Hebrew Christians to whom this Epistle was first addressed were passing through a great fight of afflictions, and miserably were they conducting themselves. They were the little remnant out of the Jewish nation who had believed on their Messiah during the days of His public ministry, plus those Jews who had been converted under the preaching of the apostles. It is highly probable that they had expected the Messianic Kingdom would at once be set up on earth and that they would be allotted the chief places of honour in it. But the Millennium had not begun, and their own lot became increasingly bitter. They were not only hated by the Gentiles, but ostracized by their unbelieving brethren, and it became a hard matter for them to make even a bare living. Providence held a frowning face. Many who had made a profession of Christianity had gone back to Judaism and were prospering temporally. As the afflictions of the believing Jews increased, they too were sorely tempted to turn their back upon the new Faith. Had they been wrong in embracing Christianity? Was high Heaven displeased because they had identified themselves with Jesus of Nazareth? Did not their suffering go to show that God no longer regarded them with favour?

Now it is most instructive and blessed to see how the Apostle met the unbelieving reasoning of their hearts. He appealed to their own Scriptures! He reminded them of an exhortation found in Proverbs 3:11-12, and applied it to their case. Notice, first, the words we place in italics: „Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you.” This shows that the exhortations of the Old Testament were not restricted to those who lived under the old covenant: they apply with equal force and directness to those of us living under the new covenant. Let us not forget that „all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16) The Old Testament equally as much as the New Testament was written for our learning and admonition. Second, mark the tense of the verb in our opening text: „Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh.” The Apostle quoted a sentence of the Word written one thousand years previously, yet he does not say „which hath spoken,” but „which speaketh.” The same principle is illustrated in that sevenfold „He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith (not „said”) unto the churches” of Rev. 2 and 3. The Holy Scriptures are a living Word in which God is speaking today! Consider now the words „Ye have forgotten.” It was not that these Hebrew Christians were unacquainted with Prov. 3:11 and 12, but they had let them slip. They had forgotten the Fatherhood of God and their relation of Him as His dear children. In consequence they misinterpreted both the manner and design of God’s present dealings with them, they viewed His dispensation not in the light of His Love, but regarded them as signs of His displeasure or as proofs of His forgetfulness. Consequently, instead of cheerful submission, there was despondency and despair.

Here is a most important lesson for us: we must interpret the mysterious providences of God not by reason or observation, but by the Word. How often we „forget” the exhortation which speaketh unto us as unto children- „My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.” Unhappily there is no word in the English language which is capable of doing justice to the Greek term here. „Paideia” which is rendered „chastening” is only another form of „paidion” which signifies „young children,” being the tender word that was employed by the Saviour in John 21:5 and Hebrews 2:13. One can see at a glance the direct connection which exists between the words „disciple” and „discipline”: equally close in the Greek is the relation between „children” and „chastening.” Son-training would be better. It has reference to God’s education, nurture and discipline of His children. It is the Father’s wise and loving correction which is in view. It is true that much chastisement is the rod in the hand of the Father correcting His erring child. But it is a serious mistake to confine our thoughts to this one aspect of the subject. Chastisement is by no means always the scourging of His refractive sons. Some of the saintliest of God’s people, some of the most obedient of His children, have been and are the greatest sufferers. Oftentimes God’s chastenings instead of being retributive are corrective. They are sent to empty us of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness: they are given to discover to us hidden transgressions, and to teach us the plague of our own hearts. Or again, chastisements are sent to strengthen our faith, to raise us to higher levels of experience, to bring us into a condition of usefulness. Still again, Divine chastisement is sent as a preventative, to keep under pride, to save us from being unduly elated over success in God’s service. Let us consider, briefly, four entirely different examples.

DAVID. In his case the rod was laid upon him for grievous sins, for open wickedness. His fall was occasioned by self-confidence and self-righteousness. If the reader will diligently compare the two Songs of David recorded in 2 Samuel 22 and 23, the one written near the beginning of his life, the other near the end, he will be struck by the great difference of spirit manifested by the writer in each. Read 2 Samuel 22:22-25 and you will not be surprised that God suffered him to have such a fall. Then turn to chapter 23, and mark the blessed change. At the beginning of v. 5 there is a heart-broken confession of failure. In vv. 10-12 there is a God-glorifying confession, attributing victory unto the Lord. The severe scourging of David was not in vain.

JOB. Probably he tasted of every kind of suffering which falls to man’s lot: family bereavements, loss of property, grievous bodily afflictions came fast, one on top of another. But God’s end in it all was that Job should benefit therefrom and be a greater partaker of His holiness. There was not a little of self-satisfaction and self-righteousness in Job at the beginning. But at the end, when He was brought face to face with the thrice Holy One, he „abhorred himself” (42:6). In David’s case the chastisement was retributive, in Job’s corrective.

ABRAHAM. In him we see an illustration of an entirely different aspect of chastening. Most of the trials to which he was subjected were neither because of open sins nor for the correction of inward faults. Rather were they sent for the development of spiritual graces. Abraham was sorely tried in various ways, but it was in order that faith might be strengthened and that patience might have its perfect work in him. Abraham was weaned from the things of this world, that he might enjoy closer fellowship with Jehovah and become the „friend” of God.

PAUL. „And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure (2 Cor. 12:7). This „thorn” was sent not because of failure and sin, but as a preventative against pride. Note the „lest” both at the beginning and end of the verse. The result of this „thorn” was that the beloved apostle was made more conscious of his weakness. Thus, chastisement has for one of its main objects the breaking down of self-sufficiency, the bringing us to the end of our selves. Now in view of these widely different aspects chastenings which are retributive, corrective, educative, and preventative, how incompetent are we to diagnose, and how great is the folly of pronouncing a judgment concerning others! Let us not conclude when we see a fellow-Christian under the rod of God that he is necessarily being taken to task for his sins. In the next chapter  meditation A W Pink  considers the spirit in which Divine chastisements are to be received.

Click here to read the entire book online http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pink/comfort/files/comfort.html

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Film – Damascul ne vorbeste – Apostolul Pavel (subtitrare in Limba Romana)

Acest film a fost filmat in Damascus, Syria prin strazile si locurile mentionate in Noul Testament. (Este in parte film, si in parte documentar).

Puteti sa cititi o descriere a filmului in Limba Engleza aici.

Daca nu va apar subtitrarile apasati pe literele CC in partea de jos, stinga a playerului.

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